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For a long time, drinking milk (i.e. cow’s milk) has been associated with good health. People of all ages, from young children to pregnant mothers, have been highly encouraged to drink a lot of milk to help reduce the risk for fractures and to support bone growth. However, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed different results. The study revealed that increase in milk intake was actually associated with higher risk of mortality, as well as higher incidence of fractures! 
How is this possible? Milk is supposedly good for you and studies have supported how it improves bone health – but why is increased intake associated with higher death rates and morbidity rates?
The Positives of Drinking Milk
Dairy products have high levels of bone-beneficial nutrients, specifically calcium. To promote bone health, long-term intake of 2500 mg per day is deemed safe. Calcium intake of less than 700 mg per day has been associated with bone loss (a decrease in bone mineral density or BMD) – which is why doctors recommend drinking at least one glass of milk a day. However, the study that recommends calcium intake of 2500 mg a day also recommends not to take in more than 2500 mg because of potential health risks. 
Death by Milk
The study by Michaelsson, et. al. in the British Medical Journal, followed two large groups of men and women in Sweden. They were administered a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study and a follow-up questionnaire 7-10 years later. The mean of the final follow-up was done 20.1 years later after the administration of the first questionnaire. The results of the study were shocking – for every death of a woman who drank less than one glass of milk a day, two women who drank three or more glasses of milk a day died. 
The Problems Lies With Galactose
While calcium is no doubt good for health, galactose isn’t. D-galactose, a substance present in milk, was associated with signs of premature aging in a study with rats  – manifesting as shortened lifespan, presumably because of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These two factors were also mentioned in Michaelsson’s study, where in a higher intake of milk was positively associated with biomarkers of oxidative stress found in the urine.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance in the body that results in the production of “free radicals” or unbound oxygen. Free radicals damage blood vessels and tissues all over the body, which can cause widespread inflammation – a factor that contributes to various diseases that can affect the heart, liver, and other major organs of the body. 
The Pros of Eating Yogurt (and other fermented dairy products)
Because of the potential dangers of milk, a good alternative is to replace drinking milk with eating yogurt. Yogurt has the same calcium content as milk but none of the galactose – plus it’s rich in antioxidants and probiotics which promote good digestion and cleansing of the body. Other fermented dairy products are given the same recommendation.
So the next time you go to pick up milk at the grocery, think twice and grab some yogurt instead!
 Michaelsson, K., et. al. (2014). Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015
 Strohle, A., et. al. (2015). Calcium and bone health – goodbye, calcium supplements? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25689871
 Hao, L., et. al. (2014). The influence of gender, age and treatment time on brain oxidative stress and memory impairment induced by d-galactose in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24796811
 Betteridge, D. (2000). What is oxidative stress? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10693912
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